A major cause of challenges for organizations trying to improve processes and make more effective business decisions has long been not having enough data on a timely basis to apply analytics, generate metrics or review and act upon it. Despite improvements in technology that help speed up operations, many organizations still copy and paste data to perform local tasks that could be done as well where the data exists on the network. One solution to this issue is to provide federated access to data and what is called data virtualization, which can dynamically access and integrate data as queries are being performed – a solution that has also been known as enterprise information integration (EII). Both business and IT want to make data available as needed, but in many cases they try to do it using the wrong technology for the job, typically a database or middleware.
One prominent provider of data virtualization and integration is Composite Software. The company has been involved in this area for many years under the leadership of CEO Jim Green, who is known in Silicon Valley for taking on tough challenges around data and services through his work at previous technology providers. Composite continues to grow, compete and partner with IBM, Informatica, Microsoft and Oracle and has had success in allowing BMC Software, IBM Cognos, SAS and others to OEM its technology. Composite recently announced major advances in its data virtualization platform. Its Composite Information Server offers data modeling and processing methods for access and integration, which provide a range of role-based capability interfaces called studio, designer and manager. This server includes a query engine, caching, data access and publishing, and metadata management. This sophisticated technology can access and integrate files from spreadsheets, Web services, mainframes and databases in data warehouses or within enterprise applications. The new release of Information Server, version 5.12, adds pluggable authentication for Microsoft NT LAN Manager (NTLM) and Novell systems, and optimizes support for data warehouse appliances from Netezza to make them yet another source of data for Composite. For enterprise architected deployments, Composite offers an option to deploy its servers in clusters that can handle large-scale deployments. As well, Composite has added support for Oracle Essbase 1.0 through a SQL-to-MDX interface called Composite Application Data Services that is also used for accessing SAP Business Warehouse (SAP BW).
Another product called Composite Discovery, now in its second release, uses modeling and metadata to enable discovery through search of specified data types; it allows users to find data sources and relationships that can help them assemble data views rapidly. Composite products are now deployed in many IT organizations as part of an enterprise data strategy that requires performance monitoring and analysis of usage to resolve issues. Composite Monitor version 1.0, bundled at no cost with Information Server, provides these capabilities with activity and health indicators along with simple views of traffic and requests processed. This capability adds to Composite’s strategic role in the IT portfolio and contributes virtualized access to data in cloud computing environments so organizations can access more easily their data being housed outside the enterprise.
Although many business intelligence (BI) technology providers have added virtual data access to their platforms, the need for it across the data portfolio continues to grow as organizations utilize the advances of in-memory processing and increased network bandwidth to streamline virtual access to data. Our benchmark research finds organizations looking for simpler, more consistent methods to access data than data virtualization and enterprise information integration provide. In fact our benchmark on BI and performance management found that the top driver of efforts to improve in their use is the lines of business’s need for information (cited by 68% of participants) and the need to improve timeliness of data (52%). Our data governance benchmark research found that metadata management (cited by 42%) will be the number-one technology adopted for these purposes in 2010 and 2011. EII was third (37%) and data discovery (36%) fourth in adoption plans; Composite provides all of these.
Composite also is an enabler of what I call information applications, which require robust platforms that can dynamically access and integrate data from across an organization to support a range of business needs. This rapidly growing trend can provide a range of applications to access data immediately or to create self-service applications for the enterprise and customers, suppliers and consumers. I have written already about this new category and why both business and IT need it (See: “Information Applications: New Generation of Information Technologies“).Our benchmark research on the topic, soon to be released, finds dissatisfaction and low confidence in companies’ ability to make information available easily and fast enough; the most important need of organizations in this area is to assemble information from across the enterprise into a single, simple view. Data virtualization plays an instrumental role in rapidly assembling and deploying this class of applications.
Composite Software’s data availability tools for business and IT also can play a key role in data governance; our benchmark research found the most significant concern in 57 percent of organizations is to understand data issues. Inconsistency of data across applications and services was the most impactful hindrance in 45 percent of organizations; unless rationalized with an approach like Composite Software’s and applying data discovery techniques, this will be difficult to address. Consistent data services were identified as the most important technology issue for 90 percent of organizations, which also plays to Composite’s strengths.
The future is promising for Composite Software as IT is less apt to take on new projects that do not deliver value to business in a timely manner. The data availability agenda is important to a range of analytics, business intelligence, data governance and information applications and seems likely to become a standard component of information architectures. The challenge for Composite is to convince customers to consider data virtualization as not just an IT tool but as a business enabler. I provided some basic research facts in my analysis as many organizations I talk to are not as sure on how many others are advancing their data availability agenda through virtualization. If Composite can provide examples of the ranges of use for its products, as I have described them here, and not caught up too much in the latest technology jargon, the company could succeed in making companies see data as a strategic asset of their business.
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Mark Smith – CEO & EVP Research